The Ultimate Guide to Packing for College

Ah, packing for your first year of college. I remember it like it was exactly one year ago. You’re off to live on your own for the first time, so obviously you need to be prepared for EVERYTHING, right? Maybe, but it is definitely easy to overpack.

So, using my extensive knowledge of packing for college, I’ve come up with the only list you will need to follow for packing for the start of the rest of your life. (Excluding some of the more obvious things like your phone, laptop, money, backpack… but I just said them there so nvm.)

First thing’s first, you’ll need to create your own list. Copy and paste this one in a word document or whatever, idc, but you’ll want to add things, check off things, etc. as you go. TRUST ME. Also, talk to your roommates about who is bringing what or splitting the cost of something.

Next you need to actually go shopping. I recommend starting at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Home Goods and Marshalls have great deals on things like hangers, pillows, and decorations. Then move on to Target and Wal-Mart. Costco is great for food or anything you want in bulk. Don’t overthink it. See something you need, get it. Don’t waste time or money on things you “might” need, or gimmick-y “college” items.

Toiletries and beyond

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash
  • Shower caddy
  • Medicine
    • Prescriptions, birth control, allergy meds, etc.
    • Advil or Tylenol
    • Tums, Pepto Bismol (trust me… all that food plus all that partying, you will thank me)
    • Band-aids
    • Vitamins (again, trust me)
    • Vicks, cough meds
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body and facial wash
  • Lotion
  • Tampons, pads
  • Q-tips
  • Cotton balls
  • Mini sewing kit
  • Makeup, brushes, and bag for it (I used one of those little plastic three drawer things and it worked gr8)
  • Hair brush, comb
  • Hair ties, clips, headbands, bobby pins
  • Hair spray, dry shampoo
  • Body spray, perfume/cologne
  • Deodorant
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer, Wet ones
  • Air freshener, Febreze fabric refresher
  • Tide Pods, Fabric softener, dryer sheets
  • Tide-to-go stick
  • Lingerie bag
  • Eye drops, contacts, glasses
  • Nail clippers, file, polish/remover
  • Tweezers
  • Makeup wipes
  • Shaving cream, razors
  • Sunscreen


Keep in mind I went to school in Ohio, so clothing will vary depending on what the weather is like at your school. It is important to factor in when you will be going home and have an opportunity to bring home or bring back more clothes. There is not a ton of space in dorms for unnecessary clothes, but still bring what you need!

  • Laundry basket
  • Socks, bras, underwear (buy a ton- laundry is expensive and tedious and the last thing you want to do is run out of underwear)
  • Two or three sweatshirts
  • cardigans, sweaters, flannels
  • Depending on your major/classes, you might want at least one business casual outfit
  • Shorts, jeans
  • T-shirts
  • Leggings, sweatpants
  • Workout clothes
  • Costume-ish outfits; frats have a ton of themed parties, most common being:
    • Hawaiian or beach themed
    • Jersey/sports themed
    • Nerd, CEO’s and office hoes
    • Red, white, and blue
    • White out or neon themed
    • basically anything that rhymes with “hoe” is probably a theme
  • Tights, scarves, hats
  • Dresses, skirts
  • Pajamas
  • Accessories, jewelry
  • Sunglasses
  • Sneakers, sandals, nice shoes
  • Slippers or Uggs or whatever to wear around the dorm or to get food etc.
  • Rain boots, snow boots
  • Rain jacket, winter coat
  • Lighter, fleece jackets
  • Bathing suit
  • School spirit!

Simple clothes go a long way in college. Stock up on basics!

“Kitchen” items

  • If your school doesn’t provide them, microwave and mini-fridge
  • Keurig coffee maker
  • Mugs, cups
  • PLASTIC utensils (I had metal ones in the beginning of the year and they were a pain to keep washing)
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towels
  • Large bowl for popcorn or chips or whatever you’re into
  • Shot glasses (you didn’t hear it from me)
  • Brita water filter
  • Water bottle
  • Ziplock bags
  • Food
    • Coffee, tea, sweetener, creamer, etc.
    • Popcorn, pretzals, chips
    • Easy Mac, Ramen, Soup, microwave meals
    • Water bottles
    • Cereal, granola bars
    • You won’t need as many snacks as you think- that’s what your meal plan is for!

Office/School Supplies

  • Printer (this totally saved me a bunch of times), printer paper, ink
  • Stapler, paper clips
  • Tape, maybe a glue stick
  • Phone charger
  • Scissors
  • Jump drive, external hard drive
  • Calendar
  • Planner
  • Chalkboard or white board
  • Sticky notes
  • Notebooks and folders for each class
  • Pens, pencils, high lighters
  • Desk organizers
  • Magazine holder (I used this to keep my books in – 10/10 would reccomend)
  • Laptop case
  • Desk Lamp
  • Calculator

Dorm Stuff

  • Bedding, sheets (I’d suggest only one set of sheets, having two sets is more of a hassle than it seems and just takes up more space. Just wash your sheets then put them back on when they’re done!), pillows
  • Mattress pad, bed bug cover
  • Extra blanket for hangin out
  • Stuffed animals if you’re into that
  • Towels, washcloths
  • Power strip, extension cord
  • TV, speakers
  • Extra chair if you have room


  • Pictures
  • Tapestry (Cheap ones are on Amazon as opposed to Urban Outfitters)
  • Christmas lights
  • Posters

Storage and Everything Else

  • Vacuum
  • Hangers (the thin, felt kind save so much space!)
  • Clorox wipes
  • Disinfecting spray
  • Dish soap, sponge
  • Headphones
  • Deck of cards
  • Camera
  • Sterilite drawers, bins, storage, etc. (Try and figure out how big your room is, or what they already give you for storage, then go from there)
  • Pepper spray
  • Drawstring bag, purse
  • Over the door towel/coat hooks
  • Command strips and hooks
  • Fan (even if you have AC, it is hot 100% of the time)
  • Umbrella
  • Health insurance cards, passport, etc.
  • Batteries
  • Sports stuff
  • Books, movies
  • Lint Roller

Chances are you are going to over pack, forget something you need, take stuff home, and so on. It’s all based on what you figure out you will need. It is definitely better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it, but you are also going to have to figure out how to get things on your own. But have no fear! This is one of the most exciting times of your life, so try to not stress over packing and look forward to the year to come. Good luck class of 2020! It’s going to be a great year!




3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Packing for College

  1. Crystal says:

    Nice list! I know this would have helped me when I was first moving in. (It’s crazy, I’m about to be a senior this year as college comes to an end!) Very true about the shower shoes! 🙂


  2. josiesvoice says:

    Regarding books, except for the obvious textbooks, one can use an e-reader like Kindle which can save a lot of dorm space! Regarding clothing, if it’s possible, to stick to solid colors,classical prints/designs or anything fashionable that exudes versatility so as to be able to mix-match your entire wardrobe. A closet space-saver.too!


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